Zacarias Moussaoui Pleads Guilty

Moussaoui pleads guilty to terror charges (CNN)

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in the terrorism conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks, pleaded guilty Friday to all six counts against him. Moussaoui, 36, could get the death penalty for his crimes — a penalty he said he would resist. “I will fight every inch of the death penalty,” he said in court Friday.

Moussaoui denied direct involvement in the attacks of September 11, 2001, but said he was part of a broader al Qaeda conspiracy to “use planes as weapons.” Moussaoui said he was to be trained to strike the White House with a 747.

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Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage, had been accused of six conspiracies: to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, to commit aircraft piracy, to destroy aircraft, to use weapons of mass destruction, to murder U.S. government employees and to destroy U.S. government property.

He was arrested a month before the September 11 attacks after raising suspicions at a Minnesota flight school when he showed up paying close to $7,000 cash for Boeing 747 simulator training.

The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow. It’s been 3-1/2 years since 9/11 and he’s been in custody the whole time.

A separate penalty phase will now determine his sentence — either life in prison without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.

The government must prove more than guilt to obtain a death sentence. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said you can’t give the death penalty simply for murder. It has to be a worst of the worst kind of murder. It has to be aggravated in some way, like you killed multiple people, you killed perhaps a police officer or a child, or endangered many other lives,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

The government has pointed to four aggravating factors — Moussaoui “created a grave risk of death;” his participation in the conspiracy “constituted a reckless disregard for human life;” the September 11 attacks were committed “in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner in that they involved torture and serious physical abuse to the victims;” and the plot was carried out “after substantial planning and premeditation.”

One would think Moussaoui would meet these tests if anyone would. Charles Manson and Jack the Ripper were pikers compared to this guy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.